Toyota Gets a Pass in Canada

Consumer safety means something completely different to Canadians. And when you consider how different the approach towards Toyota has been with regards to regulators in Canada and the United States, you have to start wondering why that is. The New York Tiimes has taken a look at how the automaker has faced wildly different approaches from the Canadian and U.S. consumer safety agencies:
During much of the eight-month crisis between Toyota and safety regulators over recalled vehicles in the United States and Canada, the public pronouncements from the two governments have been remarkably different.
As early as November, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criticized the Japanese automaker for providing “inaccurate and misleading information,” while its Canadian counterpart, Transport Canada, issued a statement that declared, “Transport Canada applauds Toyota’s action to protect consumers.”
The divergent messages have helped create the impression in Washington and elsewhere that Toyota has been more cooperative with Canadian regulators, and that somehow Canadian car owners have received better and swifter treatment. But newly released Transport Canada documents show that behind the scenes, some Canadian regulators were just as frustrated — and sometimes alarmed — by Toyota as were transportation officials in the United States.
“Toyota Canada’s action seriously undermines this safety issue,” one field investigator for Transport Canada wrote in an e-mail message in October after reviewing Toyota’s public disclosure over floor mats that may have caused unintended acceleration. “Frankly, I’m appalled by their action.”
As lawmakers in Washington hold a hearing on Thursday to consider new American safety regulations as a result of the recall of millions of Toyota vehicles, a parliamentary committee here is reviewing thousands of pages of e-mail messages and other internal regulatory documents that are casting the carmaker in an unflattering light — and are causing some Canadians to question the effectiveness of the country’s approach to regulating an industry that politicians have carefully courted rather than alienate.
Why the gulf between how the two have handled Toyota? Is it purely economic, which seems to be the implication of the article, or is it really as simple as the idea that human life--public safety--is more valuable in the United States than in Canada?
If so, I have to tell our Canadian friends to put away their air of superiority. You see, Canadians, and I'm speaking generally, have long lorded over Americans that their way of life is better than ours. I lived in New Hampshire--don't try to explain the Canadian mindset to me. I've had a belly full of it.
Now, I am quite biased. Father used to drive us up to Prince Edward Island every fall and buy up potatoes; he usually purchased three or four large trucks full of them. These were shipped back to the states hidden inside of wine bottles--don't ask. We used to have to wait in a tumbledown motel for days on end while Father and a handful of resentful potato farmers rammed potatoes into wine bottles. This is probably where I discovered the Canadian propensity to talk down about the American system of government, since Father would get visibly upset about the possibility of facing the Border Patrol's questions about why he wanted so many potatoes and why he was transporting them in wine bottles when it was perfectly legal to bring them into the United States.
Canadians aren't evil, however, just full of themselves. They have long celebrated their health care system, their vaunted "Canadian" way of doing things, and their ability to live in a cleaner, safer environment. The end result of that is that Canadians are usually broke, and won't pick up the tab in restaurants. Their money isn't worth as much (at least it wasn't in the 1990s, and no one--no one--likes to be slipped a Canadian quarter) and their taxes have always been confiscatory and outrageous. I loved their beer until I discovered Heineken. I will always appreciate their cheerful acceptance of bad weather. I'm just not inclined to believe that they have a better system of government anymore.
I do admit to having parliamentary envy. I think we all envy a good parliament now and then. Canada has gotten tired of being broke all the time. Canada is the uncle who is tired of being seen in shoddy shirts and ripped hobo pants, and now he's going to get serious about his dog walking business and make some money. Welcome to maturity, Canada. All we care about in this country is money, too. But, you don't see us lording it over anyone.
We do, but I'm trying to make a larger point here. Canada, welcome to modern society. Here, we care more about the corporate bottom line than we do about a Toyota Rav 4 crashing into a guardrail at high speed, out of control and upside down because everything failed on it. Human life is valuable, but so is the earnings per share ratio for a company trying to make some money. Have some perspective, right?
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